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A big boost from Bigfoot: A small town in Oregon finds thousands of reasons to celebrate the mysteries of the Sasquatch

The Douglas County community of Glide has about 2,300 residents, based on school district boundaries. When it threw its first-ever Sasquatch festival last year, it enjoyed the influx of 2,500 attendees, according to Jeana Southwick, executive director of Glide Revitalization, the nonprofit organization that sponsors the festival, and which is known for assisting victims of 2020's Archie Creek Fire.

This year, Southwick said organizers expect the crowd to double in size to 5,000 people. The 2023 edition of the Glide Sasquatch Festival takes place Saturday, July 22 from 12 noon until 9 p.m.

While the festival is geared at all things Sasquatch — from Sasquatch-themed vendors, to Sasquatch calling contests and costume contests, it's also meant to bring skeptics and believers together for meaningful discourse.

Jeff Meldrum, an anatomy and anthropology professor at Idaho State University, is one of the invited experts featured at this year's festival. Since he was a boy in the 1960's, he's had a fascination with Bigfoot that's never waned, and these days he's considered an expert in Bigfoot footprints. Through careful collection, he's amassed hundreds of samples preserved by casts and photographs.

Meldrum acknowledges there is no definitive evidence that Sasquatch or Bigfoot exists. There is no confirmed DNA from alleged hair samples. No bodies. No bones. Even so, he says that doesn't negate the possibility that they are out there, yet to be discovered.

"I would argue it's not outlandish. It's not irrational or makes it [the existence of Bigfoot] unbelievable," he told KLCC. "The absence is frustrating, but it's not a damning one when you understand the physical and biologic principles involved in the fate of the remains of deceased animals and the attributes of Sasquatch make them all the more elusive, even posthumously."

Come to the festival and be converted?

Southwick thinks those types of large questions are part of the festival's appeal.

"There's something fun about a mystery," she said. "It's kind of like a treasure hunt. So Bigfoot is the Pacific Northwest treasure hunt. We all like knowing that there might be something out there that we don't know about or that there might be a little bit of a mystery in our own backyard."

While the Sasquatch mysteries loom, one thing is undeniable: being able to attract so many visitors through a single event has a measurable impact.

"If we're able to get the 5,000 people here it'll be absolutely huge, not just for our event, but it's a very small town, and we've got one road in, one road out. And everybody that comes through, stops and buys gas or gets a snack at the store, stops at any of our restaurants, it could mean like one of their biggest months of the year," Southwick said.

As for whether Sasquatch is a figure of the imagination or a mysterious real-life creature wandering among the forests, Southwick's leaning on festival spirit to lead the way.

"I'm hoping that we convert everybody from skeptics to believers," she said.

Editor's note: Organizers of the festival said afterwards that approximately 4,300 people attended.

Jill Burke became KLCC's arts reporter in February, 2023.